In the lead up to some of his appearances at Product Marketing World's Summits, BlueCat Networks' Product Marketing Manager, Mark Mikhail, got stuck in answering all your questions on creating thought leadership pieces that tangibly boost pipeline.

Got questions? Get answers! Check out the next in our line up of Ask Me Anythings here.

Q. What kind of thought leadership pieces do you produce at BlueCat? And how much involvement do you as a PMM have in the creation process?

A. BlueCat has found success in eBooks. We are producing our first internal annual report coming out shortly, while also working with external analysts for co-branded external reports. In prior roles at companies, such as IBM, we developed many white-papers, eBooks, and reports, etc.

As a PMM, I am involved in the following ways:

  1. Conducting and supporting analyst briefings and inquiries
  2. Info gathering using market research and tools from Gartner, IDC, etc.
  3. Validating trends with focus/user groups and communities
  4. SaaS product data mining with BlueCat Analysts and Product Managers
  5. Working with agencies and content teams on report design
  6. Supporting storytelling and writing alongside our BlueCat SMEs

Having skills in mindful management helps bring people together to produce some awesome work. Feel free to check out my recent article on this.

Q. Thought leadership pieces obviously require a lot more time and resource than the other more run of the mill marketing pieces, how often do you execute these?

A. Great question, and you're right, especially when managing different-sized resources in enterprise and mid-market companies. I don't approach thought leadership as a quota that needs to be met. I want to execute thought leadership when there is something valuable to share with prospects and customers.

  1. Trended proprietary data can allow for a thought leadership refresh annually.
  2. Certain industry transformations, ways of working, or incidents can also trigger an opportunity to produce thought leadership ad-hock.
  3. External reports by analysts that come out every 1-5 years provide an execution possibility.

Q.  I've never really done any thought leadership pieces. As a first-timer, what would your best practices be and is there anything I should maybe avoid? Also, how do you go about identifying what to center your thought leadership piece around?

A. There are several ways to approach this.

  • You could approach talking about the benefits of a product, service, or methodology in depth.
  • You can approach from the problem-solution point of view, which takes the reader by the hand through the solution to a common industry problem.
  • Depending on what data you have available, present a summary of useful data points and info about the state of a role, field, or industry.

The #1 thing I would avoid is taking on thought leadership on your own. Find sponsors internally, external report sponsorship opportunities, or within your circle of influence.

A best practice is leveraging internal and external crowdsourcing through surveys and forums to validate topics, customer problems, and assumptions.

Maintain customer-centricity. You can center thought leadership around industry macro-problems and transition into helping customers solve their micro-problems.

Q. What sort of metrics do you use to measure the impact of thought leadership work? I see a lot of people saying you shouldn't track vanity metrics like page views and social shares, would you agree with that?

A. With mar-tech we are able to measure the impact of thought leadership in new ways.

  1. Using sales content management systems that plug-into Salesforce, I look at attributing revenue by asset. This allows me to assign value to asset classes across the sales cycle.
  2. Using tools like Medallia on owned web properties, I can survey downloaders to assign an NPS score to assets.
  3. Furthermore, assets are picked up by analysts or quoted in reference across the web or reports, impacting brand value and lead generation. At IBM we had tools that measured brand value and Share of Voice in the marketplace.

Vanity metrics are great indicators on interest but they are very top-of-funnel metrics and should not be used alone for investment decisions. I have found a way to build in those metrics along with the measures above.

  • One can create an asset value index… somewhat similar to how investment firms create different ETFs.
  • Simply take the sum of different vanity and lead rates, along with binary scores against revenue or wins if appropriate, and divide it by the total number of indices in your model.

"Voila" you have a harmonized thought leadership model/metric that can be compared to other asset class indexes.

Q. What are the differences between Product Marketing and Brand Marketing?

A. To me, Product Marketing is more about driving demand and usage of products by understanding market problems and developing product messaging that resonates with buyers. As a result, we are very much tied to product teams and the sales process. Brand is much more defining "who you are as an organization" and is valuable to building trust and awareness.

Q. How should one prepare to look for a job in a Product Marketing role?

One great place to learn about the role and responsibilities is searching up job postings. If you find you have more questions after this initial level of research, feel free to connect on LinkedIn.